It was only half a tooth. But it was half of my front tooth, and it had broken off completely.
When I looked in the mirror, a shocked and snaggle-toothed woman stared back at me. I numbly finished combing my hair and walked downstairs to where my weekend hostess had breakfast waiting. In the quiet of her beautiful, Victorian, seaside home, I burst into tears.
My looming fear was that my tooth could never be fixed or that we couldn’t afford to replace it and I’d always look that way. Then a secondary dread emerged: I had to speak to hundreds of women for an entire day, AND a videographer had already been procured to capture my lectures on film!
I had become Exhibit A of brokenness on display for all the world to see.
It’s in moments like that when all the insecurity and vulnerability of even the most seasoned, professional speaker can kick in. First, I deliberated on opening with an elaborate funny story of “what happened on my way to the women’s conference.” Then, I considered using it as an illustration for my third presentation, entitled — are you ready? — “Brokenness.”
But I wasn’t feeling especially jovial, and I realized immediately that a broken front tooth was hardly a blip for so many people who were truly suffering and broken. So, I finally chose the third path.
I spent the whole conference wearing bright coral lipstick speaking, laughing, and chatting with women, never once acknowledging the obvious wide gap in the middle of my face! I quite simply got over myself and focused on the business at hand – encouraging, teaching, and challenging hungry and hurting women — while smiling.
And God showed up.
By the end of the day, we had become so saturated in the sweet spirit of Jesus, that it was time to draw strength for the charge of going back into our homes, our own little worlds with the overflow of a filled soul.
I concluded my talk by saying, “You now have a choice: will you risk everything for a life of adventure in the presence, power, and purpose of God? Or will you play it safe, doing the same thing with the same predictable and limiting results? This morning when I broke my front tooth I had a choice to either allow that to totally sidetrack my mission and message or to move forward — imperfectly — in what I did have to offer you. I am so glad I didn’t end up falling into the trap of making it all about me. Thank you for your grace and generosity. My prayer is that when you show up with nothing much but pure obedience, the world will listen.”
What was essential that Saturday were the women who had come and the message God had given. The lovely decorations weren’t all that important. The outstanding acoustics and expert videographer were not the focus. And how the guest speaker looked was the least significant thing of all!
The next time something breaks in your life just as you are about to embark on important, God-led work, recognize it for what it is — a temptation to get rattled, to give up, and hide. Don’t do it. You and I are simply vessels of treasure deep inside, and the light from within will shine through our cracks.
We now have this light shining in our hearts,
but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.
This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)